A GARDENER was one of almost 100 people welcomed to new leadership roles within their parishes at a service of celebration at Winchester Cathedral.

This was the second of two services held this autumn to commission and license new lay members into the church.

These non-clergy members will take on a variety of roles in the Church throughout Hampshire and East Dorset. The roles range from inspiring people to care for creation by adopting environmentally impactful practices to talking to people about who Jesus is or preaching in the pulpit on Sundays.

The services took place at Winchester Cathedral and were led by the Bishop of Southampton. They were attended by the families and friends of the new lay ministers, as well as other members of the clergy and local parishioners.

The service on October 9 was the second of two services held this autumn to welcome new lay leaders into the Church. The first, held in September, had been postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic. In total 143 people were licensed and commissioned to lay leadership roles this autumn.

Desmond Thuambe, 48, who received the Bishop’s Commission for Worship, said: “As a gardener, I have had plenty of opportunities to chat to people while I work. As Paul in Corinthians says: ‘you yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts’."

Following the service, The Right Reverend Debbie Sellin, Bishop of Southampton said: “Lay Ministry plays a vital role in the life of parishes all over the Diocese and it is a joy to see so many people wanting to share their faith and serve others. I am especially inspired by those who have waited so graciously these past 18 months for their opportunity to celebrate their licensing with their loved ones. I pray these lay members will continue to live the mission of Jesus and share their love of Christ with their communities.”

The new cohort consisted of lay members from a range of programmes within the Winchester School of Mission, and included Licensed Lay Ministers and Workers, many of whom have concluded a three-year training course to prepare them to lead worship and provide pastoral care.